"Can You Hear Me Okay?"

Launching a Story-Based Archive Collection During COVID-19

  • Cassie Tanks UNC Chapel Hill
Keywords: oral history, digital archive


The COVID-19 pandemic, racial reckoning across the United States, and the uncertainty of the future dramatically shaped the development of the UNC Story Archive collection. Formerly envisioned as a mobile recording studio that would travel to events to collect the stories of University of North Carolina alumni and students who are part of communities that have been misrepresented, ignored, or outright silenced in the historic record, a shift to entirely remote space had to happen. While considering how to rework the planning for this collection during Summer 2020, important questions about proceeding mindfully during crises arose. This article discusses how building the UNC Story Archive on intentional theoretical frameworks of collaboration, radical empathy, and honoring of space facilitated that shift and helped navigate those challenging questions. 

Author Biography

Cassie Tanks, UNC Chapel Hill


Numerous collaborators have played pivotal support roles in ensuring that The UNC Story Archive is successful now and will remain so into the future: the University Archives and Records Management team, Special Collections Technical Services—especially Deseree Stukes and Kaylin Blount, strategic partnerships with alumni groups, and Library Communications provided tremendous support in the form of technical support and outreach efforts. Contributors also play a valuable role in supporting the UNC Story Archive—each has the opportunity to be involved in the descriptive metadata and transcription process. So many invested people have made the UNC Story Archive what it is today and will make it better for the future.

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